Swipe Right for Sudan: The Last Northern White Rhino on the Planet
by sleeming on October 6, 2017 - 6:29pm
While many millennials use the dating app Tinder to meet new people, conservationists are using Tinder to help Sudan – the world’s last male Northern White rhino – make a “last chance breeding effort” to save his species. An article in the Toronto Star by Tom Udula discusses the aims and reasoning behind the social media campaign to address the potential extinction of the northern white rhino.
Sudan along with two females are the last Northern White rhinos on the planet and are unfortunately too old to naturally reproduce successfully. The Ol Pejeta Conservancy and Tinder aim to raise awareness and collect funding for an expensive breeding method involving in-vitro fertilization. The fertilization technique is estimated to cost 9 million dollars. The ultimate goal is to reintroduce a population of northern white rhinos back into the wild. Collectively, the extinction of the northern white rhino is attributable to poor wildlife management strategies.
Wildlife management itself is usually met with the conflict of value. White rhino horns are highly valued at $50 000 per kilogram. The overexploitation of these horns has driven the northern white rhino to the brink of extinction. While its easy for First World countries to criticize killing these popular animals to make profits, developing countries, such as Kenya, feel they need to exploit this resource to generate income and lift themselves out of poverty. However, researchers predict that the extinction of rhinos will reduce tourism, leading to economic downfall and decreased employment in developing communities. Thus, conflict arises, as communities and individuals decide within themselves whether to exploit the resources harvested from rhinos, or to protect them and generate income over the long term. It is also difficult to put a dollar value on the ecosystem services that rhinos perform, but the importance of them must also be considered. While other substantive policy instruments such as laws and regulations have been placed to prohibit rhino poaching, it still occurs. Public outreach seems to be a viable option to help raise the funds necessary to aid in conservation of the species.
The substantive policy instrument of public outreach via Tinder does seem to be beneficial since media coverage of environmental and ecological issues can help to generate public concern and aid in leading to a solution. However, media coverage often does not ensure long term attention to an issue. Furthermore, once the subject is not covered in the media, the lack of attention on the issue can create the false assumption that the issue has been resolved. Public interested typically declines gradually after coverage in media and social media, and will not rise again until another big event as occurred. Unfortunately in this case, northern white rhinos are likely to not receive attention again until either Sudan dies or until the in-vitro fertilization has been proven successful.
While public outreach and regulations against poaching have definitely aided in the conservation of all rhino species, perhaps regulations should stretch further and be applicable in other countries around the globe. For instance, many Asian countries import rhino horns, so prohibiting the possession of them in these countries could help decrease the demand for them and help halt rhino poaching in general.
While the future for this species seems grim, many conservationists are hopeful. There is extensive protection in place for Sudan, as he is always accompanied by two armed rangers. If the in-vitro fertilization proves to be successful, the Sudan may one day be able to see his offspring thriving in the wild.
Lubbe, B. A., du Preez, E. A., Douglas, A. and Farier-Wessels, F. (2017). The impact of rhino poaching on tourist experiences and future visitation to National Parks in South Africa. Current Issues in Tourism, DOI: 10.1080/13683500.2017.1343807.
Odula, Tom. (2017, April 25). World’s last male northern white rhino joins Tinder dating app. The Toronto Star. Retrieved from: https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2017/04/25/worlds-last-male-northern-white-rhino-joins-tinder-dating-app.html.